Springtime in Washington and ATEC 2018

March 15, 2018
Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) will host its annual conference in the D.C. metro area March 17-20

I lived in the D.C. metro area for 13 years before moving back to my hometown of Tulsa in 2016. As someone who’s come and gone, I can tell you there’s nothing like spring in our nation’s capital. Washingtonians will argue that fall brings the best weather, but in my mind, you can’t beat cherry blossoms, running around the national mall in a t-shirt for the first time in months, and — for trade association junkies — conference season.

Hosting members for their annual pilgrimage to D.C. is good for the soul. Visitors from “outside the beltway” bring with them a breath of fresh air, perspective, and a reminder of how decisions made in Washington resonate around the country (and the world). And conference goers (generally) leave reinvigorated after successfully influencing policy decisions in Washington.

I am therefore extremely enthusiastic that the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) will host its annual conference — an event dedicated to furthering and enhancing maintenance technician education for the next generation of aviation mechanics — in the D.C. metro area March 17-20. The event is traditionally held in cities around the U.S., but this is the first time in a good while that maintenance educators have convened in Washington — a testament to the council’s renewed emphasis on engaging federal and congressional leaders.

Two hundred attendees are expected to participate, including representatives from educational institutions, aviation employers, training and materials vendors, and the government.

Speakers from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, the STEM Education Coalition, and the Department of Education are expected to highlight federal policy objectives impacting aviation maintenance education. The high-level view will be reinforced by a closer look at more specific issues such as avionics training, new Federal Aviation Administration testing standards, and high school partnership programs.

A recent ATEC report sets the stage for several sessions. The council estimates that 30 percent of the current mechanic workforce is at or near retirement age, and that newly minted mechanics make up only 2 percent of the AMT population annually. Given the replacement needs — not to mention an estimated increase in overall demand for maintenance technicians — industry is nearing a breaking point. The “good” news is that aviation maintenance technician schools — currently producing 60 percent of new mechanics — are only filling 50 percent of their available seats. Meaning that much more can be and should be done to encourage new entrants to choose careers in aviation.

A main-stage session will look at a big influencer for career-seekers, government career data. The recently revised Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook provides revised earnings reports, growth projections, and replacement needs for aviation mechanics and technicians. Changes to the Bureau’s methodologies — and presumably shifts in the current workforce age demographics — resulted in a substantial increase in the career’s anticipated growth, jumping from 1 to 5 percent. (For more information, see Partly Sunny Skies for Mechanic Careers According to Latest Government Projections.) While industry could certainly use a bigger boost given growing workforce concerns, attendees will leave with a better understanding of the numbers and what they mean for educational institutions that rely heavily on government funding.

As it did last year, ATEC will use the annual conference to reinforce and facilitate employer-educator partnerships, the theme of the flagship Employer Expo. Endeavor Air, Piedmont, SkyWest Airlines, PSA Airlines, Air Wisconsin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and United have confirmed their participation at the popular networking event. Recruiters will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from a third of all aviation maintenance technician schools around the country, and schools will broaden their student placement network.

A mainstay at the annual conference, the exhibitor hall highlights products, materials, and services that enhance educational programs. Nearing record sell-out, the showcase opportunity promises a one-stop shop for vendors to network and reconnect with current customers.

Following two days of general and breakout sessions in Arlington, VA, ATEC will double down on its annual fall Fly-in and facilitate congressional meetings on Capitol Hill. Attendees will educate members of congress on issues impacting aviation maintenance education, including its top priorities: overhauling Federal Aviation Administration curriculum requirements and funding career technical education.

While in the nation’s capital, attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the National Transportation Safety Board laboratory and fellow aviation maintenance technician school located at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

We are looking forward to a jam-packed three days and invite educators, administrators, career services personnel, designated mechanic examiners, company recruiters, and workforce development professionals to join us. I promise, springtime in Washington will not disappoint.

For more information, visit atec-amt.org/annual-conference.